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November services set for Emily Mitchell Wallace Harvey, 85, expert on modernist poets

Dr. Wallace had a mind like a steel trap and was without any kind of pretense, a friend said.

Emily Mitchell Wallace Harvey
Emily Mitchell Wallace HarveyRead moreCourtesy of Margaret Chew Barringer (custom credit)

Services will be Saturday, Nov. 9, for Emily Mitchell Wallace Harvey, 85, a scholar and an expert on the poets Ezra Pound and William Carlos Williams, who died Sept. 29 of cancer at Beaumont at Bryn Mawr.

Dr. Wallace, as she was known professionally, split her time between a home in Philadelphia and a farm in Chester County before moving to Beaumont, a senior community, in 2018.

She was an expert on Williams and Pound, who were associated with the modernist poetry movement of the late 19th and early 20th century in Europe and North America.

Dr. Wallace came to her profession at a time when traditional forms of literature and art were breaking apart and resurfacing as nontraditional verse and abstract art. She gave the new forms credence in her lectures and writings.

“She was a force of nature,” said Margaret Chew Barringer, her friend of 60 years. “She broke the rules of academia in all sorts of ways. She looked at the artists of the day breaking apart the images of the day, like Picasso and Kandinsky. Then she bushwhacked her way through the academia of the 20th century to make way for the thoughts of artists and poets.”

Dr. Wallace was married for 50 years to prominent Philadelphia lawyer Gregory M. Harvey, who shared her zest for Pound. They worked behind the scenes to celebrate the memory of the modernist poets.

In December 2006, for example, off-site from that year’s Modern Language Association Convention, they arranged a banquet at the Franklin Inn Club in Philadelphia to honor modernist poets with close ties to Pennsylvania, including Williams, Pound, Wallace Stevens and Marianne Moore.

Born in Springfield, Mo., Dr. Wallace was the daughter of Prewitt Carlyle Evans and George Lafayette Mitchell Sr. She grew up in Bolivar, Mo.

Dr. Wallace earned a bachelor’s degree from what is now Missouri State University in 1958. She completed a master’s degree in 1959 and a doctorate in 1965, both from Bryn Mawr College.

Dr. Wallace started out teaching history and English literature at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia and then taught literature at the Shipley School in Bryn Mawr. She became an assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania and a visiting assistant professor of English at Swarthmore College.

She returned to the Curtis Institute of Music as the chair of the English department from 1976 to 1983, taking a brief interlude to serve as a leader in the interdisciplinary seminar at Yale University.

Since 2001, Dr. Wallace had been a research associate in the Center for Visual Culture at Bryn Mawr College. She was a research scholar in poetry and the visual arts at the Cooper Union in New York.

She never really retired, said longtime family friend Marc J. Sonnenfeld, a Philadelphia lawyer. This past summer, she showed up at several professional meetings, despite failing health. “She was making the rounds,” Sonnenfeld said. “It was her way of saying good-bye.”

Throughout her academic career, Dr. Wallace organized conferences and created multimedia lectures for audiences worldwide. She had a steel-trap memory and was without any kind of pretense, Barringer said.

She was a prolific writer and edited scholarly journals. As recently as June, she gave a lecture at a university in Rome.

She was a guest editor for Paideuma, a journal of Modern and Contemporary Poetry and Poetics, for which she edited a centennial issue on William Carlos Williams in 1983.

She was a member of the Modern Language Association; Association of Literary Scholars, Critics, and Writers; Ezra Pound Society; and the William Carlos Williams Society.

She enjoyed traveling and playing tennis with her husband at the Merion Cricket Club in Haverford. He died in August 2018 of heart problems.

Dr. Wallace is survived by a brother, sister, six nephews, and two nieces.

Services will be at 1 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 9, at Christ Church, 20 N. American St., Philadelphia. Burial will be in the church graveyard next to her husband.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Franklin Inn Club, 205 S. Camac St., Philadelphia, Pa. 19107.